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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 24, 2018 of life By Christine DeSouza This article ran in the Nov. 18, 2016 issue of the Heritage shortly before Myrtle turned 106. She passed away on Aug. 18, 2018. As I pulled into Myrtle Rut- berg's driveway at the house she has lived in for 30-some years, her son, Gerald, greeted me at the door. "My mother likes visitors to come in through the front door," he said as he led me to the front porch. Myrtle's dear friend Karnine greeted me at the door. Karnine stays with Myrtle and their relationship is like a mother and daughter. Myrtle was standing on her back patio, gazing out into her backyard. She wore a royal blue dress. Her straight white hair was combed in a fashion- able side sweep. She is very pe- tite, and because of her height, she said people always thought she was younger than she was. She usually hung around with younger people, and her husband, Albert, was younger than her. Karnine and I teased her, telling her that women who marry younger men are called cougars. She laughed hardily. And even as I was talking with her, she seemed younger than her 105 years. I kept forgetting her age as she shared so many stories in such detail. She has a gift for storytelling--like painting a picture. Myrtle Skop was born Sept. 17, 1911, in St. Louis, Mo and she had a twin brother, Arthur, whom they called Archie. "I have three older sib- lings," Myrtle shared. "My mother gave birth one and a half years apart for all three elder children. Then three years later God gave her two!" Myrtle gave a youthful giggle, which she often did as she talked about her life. Archie was born 10 minutes before she was, making her the baby of the family. Myrtle's oldest brother, Morris Skop, became Con- gregation Ohev Shalom's first seminary rabbi in 1937. Two years later, when Myrtle came to Orlando, he introduced her to the congregation as his baby sister. "When I came in, my broth- er announced 'here comes my baby sister!' Everybody turns around expecting to see a baby (she gleefully laughs) and here they see a 28-year-old lady!" Myrtle treasures living in the United States. "People clamor to get into the United States. They'll do it every which way they can. I was very fortunate that my parents came here in 1904 from a small shtetl in Poland." Her parents arrived in New York on July 4. "My mother saw those firecrackers go off and they got her very, very nervous. She said, 'Is thiswhat America's all about?" Her parents settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where the first three children were born. They moved to St. Louis, Mo then back to Cleveland after the birth of the twins. Myrtle lived in Cleveland until she came to Orlando in 1939. "These are all stories in themselves and it's hard to tell you individual stories because I'd be talking all night!" she repeatedly said throughout the interview as we changed from topic to topic. Myrtle had just turned 18 when the Depression struck in September 1929. "We counted every penny we had because without that extra penny we couldn't buy certain items. Those weren't good memories. The song they were singing was 'Brother Can you Spare A Dime,' and they were selling apples in downtown Cleveland to make five cents. I was lucky to have a job. Men were being paid $8 aweek, aswas I, believe it or not." Later, to get her to move to Florida, her brother helped her get a job at The Lerner Shop in Jacksonville. She ar- rived Nov. 10, 1939 and her brother contacted someone in Jacksonville to watch over her. "I was walking down the street and someone came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder, asking if I was Myrtle Skop. 'How did you know?' I asked. He said because no one wears a coat and hat in Florida!" After training in Jackson- ville, she became the assis- tant manager and window decorator in The Lerner Shop in Daytona Beach, and soon transferred to a Lerner Shop in Orlando. "Orlando was called the City Beautiful. And it really was the city beautiful. There were lakes all around, and wherever we went, I thought we were riding around in circles because I was forever seeing a lake!" When her parents came to Orlando, they bought a house on Park Lake Avenue. "We used to catch the bus on Hyer Street to go downtown or we would walk. Orange Avenue was a beautiful avenue." Her father moved a business that her twin brother owned on ParkAvenue inWinter Park to the corner of East Church St. and Division St. It was called The Myrtle Shop ("after me," she interjected). Myrtle remembered The Le- rner Shop was next to Yowell Drew Ivey on the corner of Central and Orange. On the other side of Lerners was But- ler Shoe Store. "Rutland's was on Jefferson and JC Penneys was across the street. What else do I have to remember?" she suddenly asked. "Oh, the stores were open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. I asked, 'Don't they have labor laws in Florida?' We had labor laws in Ohio! We were not allowed to work more than 40 hours a week!" Some of her happiest mem- ories of Orlando include becoming part of the Jewish community. "We had Jewish organiza- tions like the B'nai B'rith, women and men, two different organizations. Hadassah, and what they refer to as the Ladies Auxiliary of the Synagogue. All three were important to any Jewish person who came to Orlando. And we would join all three. I've been active in the Jewish community all through the years." In February 1941, Myrtle met her husband-to-be, Albert Rutberg. "I was part ofayoung people group--eight girls and eight boys. We called ourselves the Stags and Does. We were plan- ning a Valentine's Party and each committee had jobs. I was on the decorating com- mittee, making Valentine hearts to string up." Orlando was a popular place for Jewish kids. COSwas downtown on Church Street and the party was open to all the Jewish young people from all over. Albert lived in Day- tona and had just purchased a car. He and some friends drove to Orlando, knowing there was to be a party at the synagogue later that evening. However, they arrived early. As Myrtle was still deco- rating, a girlfriend of hers introduced Albert to her as Myrtle Skop. "Are you the rabbi's wife?" asked Albert. "'No! I'm the rabbi's sister!' I said. He put two and two together and figured I must be single." He asked if he could bring her to the dance. As it turned out, Myrtle already had a date with a lieutenant from the base and she was double dat- ingwith her girlfriend, but she told Albert they could 'mingle together.' "My girlfriend and I, we walked into the synagogue looking like a million bucks. We were dressed to the hilt-- and the rest is history!" Albert wanted to take her home. "I said no. I came with this lieutenant. I better let him take me home. But we exchanged phone numbers." Albert asked if she would go for coffee with him around 10:30. "Oh no, I can't do that. I have to stay until the end when the lieutenant will take me home." As it turned out, the lieu- tenant had to be back at base by 11 p.m. "Well," said Myrtle laugh- ing, "I was sorry I didn't tell him to come to the house and pick me up afterwards!" Albert was not dissuaded. The very next day Myrtle received a seven-page letter from him. "What did it say?" Karnine and I pressed her. "It was a real love letter, believe me. He had fallen for me hook, line and sinker," she said straightforwardly, then added,"I think that he was more interested in the fact that I was the rabbi's sister!" she said giggling. "That impressed him! But none-the-less " It was a long-distance courtship. Albert came over twice a week from Daytona to see her. A short while later, he proposed. "The way he proposed to me--we were at Lake Estelle by the Florida Hospital and Sanitarium, and we sat on the seats along the shore of Lake Estelle. He asked me, 'How would you like to be a June bride?'" Myrtle didn't want to be a June bride. She really wanted to get married in September. "So, when he proposed the way he did, I didn't know whether to say yes or no!" "You didn't want to be a June bride, but you wanted to get married?" I asked. "That's exactly what hap- pened!" Myrtle stated. "So, when did you get mar- ried?" I asked. "I got married in June," she said matter-of-fact. We all laughed like school girls. On June 15, 1941--only four months after they met-- Albert and Myrtle got married at her parents' home on Park Lake Avenue with her brother, Rabbi Skop, performing the ceremony and five other rab- bis in attendance. The couple moved to Day- tona and Myrtle came back to Orlando to stay with her parents when Albert was drafted into the Army. After he returned from duty after only six months ("that's a story in itself"), the Rutbergs moved back to Daytona. During the war, the Rut- bergs experienced black outs in Daytona Beach. "We used a room that was blacked out. We feared the enemy could see the smallest twinkle of light." Myrtle recalled standing on the beach and seeing oil on the sand. "It was a reminder that ships had been blown up close to shore. Such a rude awaken- ing," she solemnly said. One of her happiest memo- ries was when her twin, Ar- chie, returned from the war. He served under Gen. Mark Clark, who came to promi- nence with the planfiing and execution of the NorthAfrican invasion of November 1942 and led the capture of Rome in 1944. "We always got together for our birthdays or we called each other. My son was eight months old when my brother came home and saw him for the first time. I was so glad to have him home." The son whom Archie saw was Gerald who was born at Orange Memorial, now Orlando Regional Medical Center. "We had a circumcision in a downstairs room," Myrtle recalled. "It was during Pass- over. They dressed up my baby on the eighth day of his life, which is when the circumci- sion takes place. And my mother had bought him a little bonnet for a boy. I still have that in my possession." Archie died in 1995. "Uncle Archie was electric!" said Gerald. "During the last 20 to 25 years of his life he was a TV actor and in commercials. When I would drive to Tampa, I'd see billboards with my Uncle Archie's picture!" Eventually the Rutbergs moved back to Orlando. They bought their first home on Yates Ave. Gerald was five years old. Reluctantly, Myrtle had to ride in a car or take a bus to COS, which was on the corner of Church Street and Eola Drive--too far from Col- lege Park. Her parents moved to Anderson St."It was a lovely two-story house," she remem- bered. Later the house was moved because the east-west expressway came through. Eventually the family moved to Kennison Drive in Orlando, and Myrtle was able to walk to shul again. COS was only about eight blocks away. "My husband drove, I walked!" she said with laughter. "I would walk every Friday night and Saturday morning and on holidays. I did a lot of walking in my lifetime," she said, attributing all this walking to the possibility of her longevity. "Morn enjoyed walking," said Gerald. "She would take in all the scenery and talk with people." When Myrtle first met Albert, he was working in his brother Joe's deli in Daytona. "Everybody knew Joe and everyone thought he had an interest in the business-- which he didn't. He was just a waiter." What kind of work did Albert do? "That's a story in Myrtle Rutberg celebrating her 106th birthday, show here with caretaker Jessica (1) and longtime friend Karnine, at Chabad's annual Mega Challah Bake. itself," Myrtle said. He bought that class was terminated, she a general merchandise store continued to teach adults in on Broadway StreetinOviedo. her home. "There was a refrigerator for "Shewouldhavethelessons sale on the porch, and he and afterward have coffee or bought the store! cake and ice cream for every- "Itwas 16 miles away. Today one to enjoy," said Karnine, it's simple [to get there]-- explaining that the custom from UCF it's a straight line, was that when children used but at that time there was just to finish learning a page in the a dirt road and my husband Torah the rabbi would put a was up at 5:30 to get on the dropofhoneyatthebottomof job by 6:30. Most customers apageto make learning sweet. were up early because they "That was before my time," worked the fields." quipped Myrtle. That was also the first time "But she still made learning Myrtle saw women wearing sweet," said Karnine. pants. Myrtle learned Hebrew "I laughed," she said."They when she lived in Cleveland. were wearing pants under She was playing out in the their dresses. I'd never seen yard with Archie when their anything like it! But it wasn't mother came out and told too longbefore Iwas doing the Archie hewas goingto Hebrew very same thing because you School. They were 8 years needed to cover up, especially old. Myrtle's mother looked at early in the morning and you her and asked, "Do you want have to wear a dress to be to come along?" presentable. That became '~Yes!" Myrtle replied. When the regular style at the time." they got to the school, Myrtle In 1972, COS broke ground noticeda classroom full of girls to build a new synagogue, and andtoldher mother shewanted in 1974, the new building on to attend Hebrew school too. GoddardStreetwas dedicated. "Mother had saved enough "When the synagogue moneytoenrollmybrotherand moved, my mother moved," told me to wait until she saved said Gerald. It took awhile, but enough send me," she said. she did move to Alfred Street "Mother sold real estate and inthe late 70s, a fewyears after she got $50 for selling a house, Albert died in March 1975. and the builder told her he "That was quite a walk would give her $50 for each from Alfred Street," Gerald house she sold." stated, explaining that she That's how Myrtle got to go had to cross Lee Road to get to Hebrew school. to the shul. TeachingwasajoyforMyrtle Rabbi Rudolph and Rose and she learned quite a few Adler, who lived close by, important things: "Silence would walk with her to ser- is gold. Sweets are gold and vices, silence is silver or visa versa. The Adlers and RutbergsAnd for every expression there were very close friends, is a counter expression and I've "That's a story in itself," found that is very true." Myrtle prefaced telling of first Myrtle stopped talking and meeting Rabbi Adler. sat quietly. "AlpickedupRabbiAdlerat"Would you like a sip of theairportwhenhefirstcame water?" Karnine asked. to town. He stayed with us Myrtle sipped the water and until the family moved here. remained quiet. We were close to the Adlers to "I'm gonna have to take a the very end. My husbandwas break," she said. "I can't talk his second hand and we got in anymore right now." on all the bar andbat mitzvahs We'dbeen talking for over an because of the Adlers. hour. Karnine tried to encour- "Rabbi had three children age her to continue. --ages9,6and3.Myhusband"Do you want me to give picked them up on Saturday her the whole 105 years in five mornings and brought them minutes?" responded Myrtle to the house andwe hadlunch, to Karnine. Gerald was like a big brother It was an honor to sit and to the Adler children."listen to Myrtle Skop Rutberg What people remember sharemuchofherlifewithme most about Myrtle was learn- thatday.Andno, thereisnoway ing their Torah portions a whole l05 years of life can be for their bar or bat mitzahs shared in five minutes! from her. Some of Myrtle's memories There are people in thecame from the Orange County community who studied Library System's oral history Hebrew with Myrtle whose profiles. JTracy interviewed parentsandgrandparentsalso Myrtle on Jan. 8, 2012, when studied Hebrew with her. She shewas100yearsold.Formore evenhadanadultclassatWin- of Myrtle's memories, visit ter Park High School. When www.orlandomemory.info.